Creative Word: Canon as Model for Education

Brueggemann, Walter. Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Education.

*Canon is transmission process. Brueggemann argues it would have shaped education (Brueggemann 3). I think he has some interesting suggestions, though this certainly does not function as a complete curriculum. I do think in some ways it can be a necessary corrective to some classical models.

Canonical Criticism

Von Rad: early credos like Deut. 6:20-2426:5-9, and Josh. 24:13 could have functioned as early canons. Further, these texts are education. They were both continuous and discontinuous in receiving and repeating new data.

The dynamic of the canonical principle (stability/flexibility; recieving/repeating new data) is also epistemologically determinative: it engages both text and community (6).

Jeremiah 18:18:

“Inside the summons to conspiracy is a summary of Israelite authoritative knowledge:

Surely (ki) the Torah shall not perish from the priest,
Nor counsel from the wise
Nor word from the prophet” (7-8).

These represent knowledge and authority structures. Each of these three patterns of knowledge has a special substance and distinct mode.

Premise: what Israel knows and how Israel knows it are linked (10).

Narrative as Israel’s primal mode of knowing

  1. Dialogical. Ritual serves to evoke a teachable moment. The children see the “secret” and want to belong to it (16).
  2. The answer is a “set recital,” not an answer made up on the spot. Approaching Torah involves a “practiced naivete” (17).
  3. The child asks the questions, not the teacher. Epistemological structure: Knowledge in the Torah is a gift given with firmness, because it is undoubted–with graciousness, because there is eagerness to share–with authority, because the speaker both owns and is possessed by the story.
  4. Torah as Nomos as articulation of “world-coherence” (19). It shapes a reliable order, a barrier against the chaos that waits so close (Jer. 5:22). Torah stands against the ominous structures of Babylon, Canaan, Egypt.
  5. The mode of articulation must match the substance of the articulation (22).
    1. Story is the primary mode of education in Torah.
      1. Story is concrete
      2. Story is open-ended.
      3. Story is a practice of imagination
      4. Stories assume a public, shared experience.
      5. Story is the bottom-line. “It is told and left” (26).
    2. “The narrative form of Torah intends to nurture insiders who are willing to risk a specific universe of discourse and cast their lot there…The question was always alive to Israel: Shall we risk these stories? Shall we take our stand on them? If we do, we must do so with the awareness that not only the substance, but our modes of knowing are suspect and troublesome in the world” (27)

The Subversive Consensus of Torah

Events of taking/receiving the Land.

  1. Intervention of a new God whose name was not known before (28). Revelation and disclosure.
  2. The substance of the response is “wonderment.”
  3. Core tradition is about a shift in power among the gods in the arena of economics and politics
  4. Celebration of power but also a criticism of power. Torah delegitimizes Pharaoh.
  5. There is a paralle between Gen. 2.15-17 and Deut. 6:20-24.

    Vocation: “to till and keep it”
    Gift : “You may freely eat of the garden”
    Prohibition: “But of the tree…

Stories are defiant acts of politics: they invite the listener to live in the world of “this community” and from the “truth” of this community, and so to defy and to delegitimate every other world and truth” (129 n19).

The Disruption for Justice

The word of the prophet is a mode of knowledge that is not known until it is uttered (41). This prophetic epistemology challenges all public structures of knowledge:

  • Jeremiah’s prophetic knowledge ends the king’s social imaginary.
  • The king is supposed to have all the formal channels of intelligence, yet he is the one going to the prophet.
  • “There is no reliable one-to-one correlation between the structures of society and the in-breaking of the new truth from God” (43).

Poetic Rationality

A prophetic mode of knowledge concerns psychology (46). A spiritual power “impinged upon them from outside of their culture.” “Prophets operated with a sense of reality that lay outside of royal rationality” (47).

Sociology of the prophets: epistemology is partly shaped by our contexts, interests, etc. Epistemology has communal overtones. Prophets are “peripheral communities” (50).

Poetic rationality: by poetry the prophets create new arenas for discourse.

Brueggemann calls for a kind of teaching as an “imaginative ad hocishness” (80).

Bureaucratic consciousness is based on the notion that life is not organically connected (Berger, quoted in Brueggemann 84). There is no Logos. There are no logoi that instantiate the Logos.

Obedience as a Mode of Knowledge

Brueggemann sums up his earlier claims about knowledge: knowledge has a social dimension and it incoroprates intangible dimensions such as memory, but always in the context of obedience to Yahweh


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